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Cablegate: Elections On the Border: A Snapshot From Kunar

VZCZCXRO1412
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2622/01 2691102
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251102Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5628
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002622

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW
CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: ELECTIONS ON THE BORDER: A SNAPSHOT FROM KUNAR

REF: KABUL 2416

1. (SBU) In the northeastern province of Kunar, a
patchwork of safe and increasingly prosperous river valleys
stitches together dry mountains and high defiles where al
Qaeda, the Taliban, and other anti-government forces operate.
The hot, dusty, fly-blown capital of Asadabad is some 150
miles east of Kabul but only 7 miles from the border with
Pakistan. In meetings September 21 with PRT officers, local
leaders and elected officials talked about elections
Kunar-style: local solutions that draw on traditional
structures of authority and personal relationships. As
voters, these representatives say Kunaris worry, first, about
corruption, and, second, about security.

---------------------------
Improvising toward the goal
---------------------------

2. (SBU) Provincial Electoral Officer Shahjehan Sardari is
a veteran of the 2004/2005 electoral cycle, and he is
determined to deliver results again. "My uncle came to see
me, to tell me to quit this job," he sighs. "It is so much
work, the family is worried I will go crazy." Shahjehan ticks
off the tasks he has accomplished in the run-up to voter
registration on October 6: setting up his office; hiring
provincial office staff; hiring and training civic educators
and district field coordinators; coordinating with the
security forces and the governor. On September 22 he and his
staff will examine some 200-odd applicants for the jobs in
the voter registration centers.

3. (SBU) Shahjehan remains concerned, however, that his
province's voter outreach will be too little and registration
sites too few. "There are people living in the forests" on
the high slopes in Kunar. "They should know about
elections." Shahjehan is also worried that women and the
elderly will remain disproportionately disenfranchised.
Provincial Council Member Touraj is blunt: "Where al Qaeda
is, it will be harder for women to vote."

4. (SBU) To solve these problems, Shahjehan says he has
secured the agreement of Independent Elections Commission
(IEC) field operations chief Raheem Siyal to use more mobile
registration teams (reftel), in addition to the one already
planned for Asadabad. The security forces opposed
Shahjehan's earlier suggestion to deploy some registration
center staff as two-person teams to remote areas with
security guarantees from local leaders. A sampling of six of
32 District Field Coordinators (DFCs) confirm, however, that
they have been laying the groundwork for mobile and
fixed-site registration in their areas. "I organized three
shuras already to solve these security problems," the DFC
from troubled Manogai said. "In the valleys I can't reach
because security is bad, I am working with my good contacts
with the district governors." On September 20, the district
governors from Manogai, Chapa Dara, and Watapoor confirmed
that small "sub-teams" would be needed to reach remote
villagers and women who might face family pressure not to
travel to registration sites.

5. (SBU) PC Member Baber agreed with the need to secure the
support of local communities. "The elections will be better
organized and have less fraud if the electoral officials rely
on local people," she said. She and fellow PC Member Touraj
plan to meet with Kunar elders to persuade them to support
women's participation. They will also reach out directly to
"our sisters who could not vote last time."

------------------
Not like last time
------------------

6. (SBU) Interlocutors agree that security is a greater
problem now than in the last electoral cycle. The director
of "The Young" youth organization complains bitterly about
the causes and sources of the present security situation in
Kunar. "People come from Karachi and tell us what to do. But

KABUL 00002622 002 OF 002


why, I ask, do they not blow up Karachi and Saudi Arabia?"
No peace, he says darkly, means no elections.

7. (SBU) More importantly, these Kunaris stress, the 2009
presidential and provincial candidates will face voters whose
hopes have gone unmet. The nation was "proud" to choose a
president and a legislature last time, the two PC Members
agree. "I like my voter registration card (from 2004),"
Touraj says. "It is very important to me." But even though
women now have more access to education and jobs, "I will not
run again, " Baber states. "We have failed." To Baber,
failure means requests to the central government went
unanswered, corruption is endemic, and "foreign enemies" are
exploding bombs and rockets.
DELL

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